Big Apple Interview: Take 2 with Gil Selinger

A cello

I am sitting at the dining room table of ace cellist and improviser Gil Selinger. Gil is one third of our classical improv trio, Duende, along with me on horn and Evan Mazunik on piano. We gave a concert in the city last Wednesday. You had something of an introduction to his background in the last interview; I wanted to take this chance to continue to interview Gil about all things improv.

JA: Let’s start your thoughts about the concert.

Gil: It was an interesting mix. The Duende CD [“Mosaic“] had a lot of structured arrangements. In concert we worked in a freer manner. We left it a lot more wide open. We only had one day [before the concert] to “rehearse,” so it worked well. One of the underlying premises of this Interzone series of concerts was to present not just the whole group, but also solos, duos, etc. This is what we did here: trio, horn and cello, cello and piano, solo piano, piano and horn. We also used ideas from each of us. We did different kinds of improv ‘games’. We used some audience participation. It was very successful – I was a little nervous about it – Evan and you have more experience in it. But it worked well. NY is a tricky place – there are so many different kinds of events competing for your attend. We came up with something that no one else has done – territory that no one else has done (to my knowledge) – we’re exploring new ground.

JA: How would you characterize this kind of music or improvisation? For people who don’t know what improvised classical music can sound like.

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Big Apple Sojourn: Interview with Evan and Gil (#1)

One of the great things about classical improv is that you are not dependent on a composer to write something for your particular group. Notation-only players are forced into instrumentations which may or may not line up with whom they would actually like to play with. When you are a music creator, you can play with anyone else who can “speak music” at any level and any instrument.

Duende is an unusual trio: horn, cello, and piano, made up of me, Gil Selinger, and Evan Mazunik. We made a terrific CD (“Mosaic“) some years back (available from www.msrcd.com) where we took medieval and Renaissance music and used it as source material for improvisation. It came about thusly: Evan and I had been working together as a duo for about four years at the University of Iowa, giving improv workshops, concerts, and we made a CD (“Repercussions” – available from www.cdbaby.com). Then Evan left school and moved to New York, where he met improvising cellist Gil Selinger. Evan and I had already worked up some of this early music repertoire during a creative residency we spent at The Centrum (in Port Townsend, WA, on the grounds where they filmed “Officer and a Gentleman” with Richard Gere and Debra Winger). Gil brought some ideas and we had the material for “Mosaic.”

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